Believe it or not, I was never a fan of playing dress-up.
Sure, I might have twirled my hair up in pigtails or put on a pair of goofy sunglasses. And I do recall having a few particularly convincing Halloween costumes (thanks for the rad witch nose when I was 5, Dad). But in high school and college, I wasn’t all that interested in clothes, and didn’t think it was a big deal to walk around my Midwestern college campus in, say, a men’s polo shirt and holey jeans. I stepped things up a bit for grad school in New York City, but still, for a good portion of my adult life, my closet has mainly been full of uninteresting stuff.
Until now. Not only have I found, inherited or otherwise acquired a closetful of exciting vintage clothes (and headgear), but also—because people know I want to tell their stories—they’ve pointed me toward Western North Carolina’s most cutting-edge designers and fashionistas. After nearly four years running VERVE, I’ve gotten a fascinating look at what makes Asheville’s fashion scene different from other cities’. It’s been an eye-opening perspective on the relationship between women and their clothing, too. There’s just something that happens to a woman’s carriage and confidence level when she steps into an exceptionally well-made garment. Judy Haynes, owner of The Sanctuary, a boutique in downtown Hendersonville (see story, page 28) was moved to tears a few weeks back when she found just the right outfit—a black suede motorcycle jacket and pants—to transform an Edneyville librarian from submissive into positively saucy.
My friend Simone Bernhard, an Asheville hatmaker, theater type and all-around classy dresser, says there’s something about Asheville’s retro architecture and cosmopolitan downtown streets that make people want to dress better. “Everybody has a stage,” she says.
Still, clothes don’t make the woman. VERVE’s stories aim to highlight and detail a woman’s accomplishments, and I had such fun working on two stories in particular in this issue. The Mother Earth News is a magazine my family and friends (and lots of other folks, too) seem to know and love. What John and Jane Shuttleworth started on their kitchen table in Ohio in 1970 was nothing short of a movement, and their publication shaped a generation’s thinking about alternative living (see story, page 40). I was thrilled to chat with Jane and her former colleagues in Hendersonville, and to piece together their adventures in ambitious magazine-making.
Another story I loved was the tale of Sarah Mettler Cecil and her Shoe Designer app (see page 30). Thanks to her hard work and talent, Mettler Cecil had something of a fairy-tale early career in shoe design. After art school in New York and Paris, the Florida native worked with famous shoe designers like Salvatore Ferragamo and Roger Vivier, the inventor of the modern stiletto. But then, in an even more fairy-tale-like twist, she was introduced to George Vanderbilt’s great grandson, Jack Cecil, who asked her to marry him and whisked her away to Asheville. Now, she’s on a quest to get back into the shoe business, and her iPhone app may be just the ticket. I joked with Sarah recently that if her app doesn’t take off, perhaps she could make the story of her life into a movie script.